Links & Resources

What are Brain Tumors & What Causes Them?

This is a question I am often asked by patients. To this day, this is still the question my mother asks me from time to time as my father passed away from a glioblastoma in 2003. Have they found a cause yet? The unfortunate answer is, not yet. There are many types of primary brain tumors, but the most common are gliomas. Of the gliomas, the high grade gliomas are the most common in adults over the age of 40 to 50. Glioblastoma (grade 4 astrocytoma) is the most aggressive and most common glioma seen in adults. Gliomas are rare in the cancer world. There are far less gliomas than the more common malignant cancers which include lung, breast, prostate, colon, and blood cancers. However, as many as 20,000 new people in the United States will be diagnosed with a glioma every year. It is our job to raise awareness of these less common, but extremely devastating tumors. Raising awareness will lead to increased research dollars for investigating the cause and ultimately leading to the cure for these tumors.

a message from Ryan T. Merrell, MD

Resources We Found Helpful

brain-ct-scanPrior to Michael Schostok’s diagnosis, most of those close to him did not realize the large number of people impacted by malignant brain tumors. Each year, 8.2 of every 100,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with primary malignant brain tumors. This number represents approximately 2% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States.

Currently, 29.5 of every 100,000 people in the U.S. have primary malignant brain tumors (just diagnosed or under treatment). A primary brain tumor forms in the brain and rarely ‘seed’ to other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, approximately 13,000 Americans die of malignant brain tumors every year, representing about 2% of all U.S. cancer deaths. Approximately 55% of these deaths are men. It should be noted that the single most important factor related to incidence of and survival from malignant brain tumors is age: the prognosis is more favorable in the under-40 age group.

Malignant tumors are life-threatening, invade surrounding normal brain tissue, and usually grow rapidly. These tumors generally do not have distinct borders and may spread to other areas in the brain or spine. A brain tumor may be malignant if it invades surrounding tissue, if it is in a critical area of the brain, or if it is life-threatening. The term malignant can also describe a benign tumor that behaves aggressively, or a benign tumor that is life-threatening because of its location.

Primary malignant brain tumors include: glioblastomas, most of the astrocytomas, and some oligodendrogliomas and ependymomas. All metastatic brain tumors are malignant but are considered secondary brain tumors as they have “seeded” from other areas of the body.

There are over a hundred different kinds of primary brain tumors, some very rare. However, not all brain tumors, or even all malignant brain tumors, are invariably fatal. With surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, some types of tumors respond very well to therapy and may even be cured. While many of the more common tumors, such as Glioblastomas, are not typically cured by surgical resection, there are more long-term survivors now than ever before, as new treatments have been introduced.

The links below were helpful to the Schostok family and can direct you to valuable information related to brain tumors, including resources for the newly diagnosed, research, treatments and other fundraising activities.



Accelerated Brain Cancer Cure
An organization who’s goal is to invest in research aimed at finding the fastest possible route to a cure.



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voices against brain cancer

Voices Against Brain Cancer
Find a cure for brain cancer/tumors by advancing scientific research & increasing awareness. 


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Brain Tumor Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Sloan-Kettering Institute focuses on the biology of cancer through programs in cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, structural biology, computational biology, immunology and therapeutics.


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Brain Tumor Research Center Harvard Medical School
The center is the research component of the clinical MGH Brain Tumor Center.



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Cancer Research Institute
Laboratory dedicated to clinical efforts for the immunological treatment, control, & prevention of cancer.


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Imerman Angels
This organization carefully matches and individually pairs a person touched by cancer (a cancer fighter or survivor) with someone who has fought and survived the same type of cancer (a Mentor Angel).


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International Brain Tumour Alliance 
IBTA works to create an alliance of the support, advocacy and information groups for brain tumour patients and carers in different countries. Also includes researchers, scientists, clinicians and allied health professionals.


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Midwest Children’s Brain Tumor Center
The center is dedicated to improving the future of children with brain tumors using advanced medical procedures and the latest technology.


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Musella Foundation
Dedicated to improving the quality of life & survival times by using technology to organizing the brain tumor community & raising money for research & to provide direct patient assistance.

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National Brain Tumor Society
The National Brain Tumor Society is committed to finding better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for people living with a brain tumor and anyone who will be diagnosed tomorrow.

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Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute
The NBTI provides state-of-the-art clinical care to patients with brain tumors while also supporting patients and their families. The institute also trains neuro-oncology researchers and clinicians in seeking a cure for brain and spinal tumors.


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NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center
They offer our patients comprehensive, compassionate care in an environment customized to promote healing at three locations—Evanston, Glenbrook and Highland Park Hospitals. Each location provides special amenities.

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NW Medicine Chicago Proton Center
The first & only proton therapy center in Illinois to bring this innovative radiation treatment to patients. Our team of experienced & highly skilled medical professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional care.

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